Why I’m raising soft kids.

Life, recently.

Sweet mother of all that is holy and good, you guys, my heart has been so weary.

It feels like my skin is flipped inside out and I’m staring wide-eyed directly into the blazing hot sun during hurricane-grade winds that just will not let up. So many of our brothers and sisters are hurting. Deeply hurting. And it’s making everything feel so raw and rough and threatening. The dark moments have blurred into one endless teardrop and we are sad and scared.

Here is my recall on recent days in a series of brutal soundbites:

A four-year-old boy slips away from his parents at the zoo. Perhaps you know this feeling, too. If you don’t, allow me to humbly confirm that it is excruciating. In the moments to follow, this little explorer makes his way into a cage where he meets eyeball-to-eyeball with silverback gorillas. Can you even imagine it. The eldest gorilla, Harambe, is shot dead by zoo staff to ensure the child’s safety. The boy is returned to his parents with only scrapes and bruises. Thank you, God. Social media explodes. We’re outraged that the gorilla couldn’t be saved. We argue about whether the zoo staff is competent to do their jobs. We are critical of the parents for being so careless and terrible at life. We blame the zoo for faulty cages. We form strong positions on how WE would have managed these circumstances if the shoe were on the other foot, and when people don’t agree with us we simply scream louder. And, with all the noise we sort of forget about this little boy and his parents who just experienced something horrific and were no doubt crippled with an intense and unimaginable fear as this situation unfolded.

A college student rapes an unconscious young woman behind a dumpster. He is tried in court by a judge who offers terribly misguided empathy in the form of an abysmally short jail sentence. Social media explodes. We’re outraged that the judge went so easy on this criminal. We hate this rapist. We despise this rapist’s family. We spend a good deal of time discussing his picture and swimming career and passion for the culinary arts and his failing appetite. We toss around some memes because they have taken over the space where nervous laughter and awkward silence use to exist. We argue about whether we should use the term assault or rape. Attempts are made to shine a light on this victim and the brave young men that contacted the police. But, then more darkness strikes and we sort of forget about this girl who was left wounded and vulnerable and no doubt crippled with an intense and unimaginable fear in the wake of the attack.

A talented musician is shot dead after a live show. We are shocked and sad but only for about a minute because the evil that hits next sends us directly to our knees and we sort of forget about this beautiful soul taken from earth much too soon.

Friends and lovers are dancing and enjoying life at their favorite nightclub when a man opens fire, spraying bullets into the crowd. People run for exits. People collapse into pools of blood. People are trapped in small spaces. People desperately text loved ones but then the messages just stop coming. Can you even imagine the receiving and then the waiting. There is panic and screaming and helping and rescuing and sacrificing. The murderer is shot dead by police. Forty-nine people are dead. Many more are injured. The worst mass shooting in our country, ever. In an instant, everything is changed forever. Social media explodes. We’re angry about loose gun laws. We’re angry that people want to take our guns away. We argue about guns. We yell about mental health. We blame Muslims. We blame terrorists. We blame gay people. We blame the government. We blame the POTUS. We’re scared for our children. We’re scared for us. We’re scared for ME and MY CHILDREN. It maybe becomes more about protecting ourselves than we might be willing to admit. And while we’re shouting at each other we sort of forget that forty-nine funerals are being planned. Fifty if you include the young musician that we’ve already forgotten about.

A family is vacationing at the most magical place on earth. Millions of families have visited this very spot. But on this night at this time, while wading in shallow water by the resort, their toddler is attacked by an alligator and they watch on in desperation as this giant reptile drags their son out into dark water. Can you even imagine it. Police recover the child’s tiny, lifeless body. Social media explodes. We write more articles about perfect parenting. We write more articles about empathy. We blame the hotel for faulty signage. We blame the parents for being just the worst ever. While we are distracted with tidying up our glass houses we sort of forget that SOMEONE’S BABY WAS JUST KILLED BY AN ALLIGATOR.

And, you guys, how about the many among us who are quietly mourning life’s hardest moments from somewhere off camera, tucked away from social spaces? The five-year-old girl who just lost her battle with cancer. The mother who is saying goodbye to her transgender son who committed suicide because the bullying left him feeling absolutely unworthy. The blissfully-in-love young couple whose vehicle is struck head on by a drunk driver, instantly erasing their plans for a beautiful future together.

The hurting is always there, with or without our yelling and blaming and anger and righteousness. Isn’t it?

And all of these hateful and ugly things are making people frustrated and defensive and scared. And I absolutely get it. I’m frustrated, too. It is frustrating that we use up precious real estate yelling at each other. Space where love could live. And all of our finger-pointing and asking for our problems to be solved outside of ourselves leaves me feeling discouraged. Because the only difference we can ever really truly make is an inside job. I’m frustrated by our unwavering desire to be right. How can we possibly HEAR anything over all of our rightness? I’m concerned by how much we allow fear to lead us. A lot concerned, actually. It’s disheartening that humans all over our world are still regularly persecuted for attempting to be their authentic selves. There is so much hurting, everywhere. I’m frustrated that privilege is still power and it continues to make parts of us feel less than.

But, honestly, our frustrations aren’t helpful unless they motivate us to actually HELP. Right? And our choices are so important. Like many of you, I am acutely aware of how my reactions to life impact my kid’s reactions. They see us. They hear us. They mirror us. What reflection do we want staring back at them, even (and especially) when life feels unkind?

I recently read a sentiment that suggested we have “gone soft” as parents and this has led to a generation of wholly ungrateful and undisciplined and disrespectful young people. Our young people. And while the message didn’t resonate with me, that’s okay (it is more than okay, actually). I’m grateful to this friend for sharing because it made me stop and think deeply about what I really want for my kids. And it is this:

I want my kids to be soft. 

I do.

In a world full of rough edges and sharp corners, I want to raise humans who are gentle and kind.

When life is dark, I want them to always ALWAYS look for the light. And when fear’s grip tightens (which will happen because fear is a controlling a–hole), I want them to know that FEAR IS NEVER LIGHT. Ever. And this is the part where I hold their face in my hands and say, This is most important, baby. Please listen. Because fear is so convincing and it will take every ounce of their strength to remember in those hard moments that fear is never loving. Or kind. Or generous. Or compassionate. In fact, fear can’t survive in proximity to any of these things. When the world asks them to be scared and angry, I hope they are brave enough to lead relentlessly and unapologetically with love.

When they feel helpless and ready to toss up their hands to it all because they can’t do everything, I want them to remember that not everything is never a better or more helpful choice than at least something. And I hope the something they choose will be in support of WE not ME. And that they define WE as EVERY PART OF US. Because if their own comfort requires someone else to suffer, then that’s not really about us. That’s ego, and he is tooootally self-centered. And saying no to ego will be one of their most challenging life lessons. Because what could be more tempting than ensuring life feels great for ME and conveniently forgetting that all of those people over there are actually part of the very same humankind? Sweet child(ren) o’ mine, please BE HUMAN KIND.

I want them to know that life is mostly (read: completely) defined by our reaction to it. And this is a biggie, right guys? I mean, if we could band together and train up a giant flock of kind champions who also have the awareness needed to question their thinking and reaction to life, doesn’t that seem like some serious parenting triumph??

I want them to not only imagine what we would be capable of TOGETHER if we listened more than we defended, reached out more than we pushed away, celebrated our unique viewpoints more than we insulted our differences. I want them to DO and BE these things.

I want them to know that the path to peace is one paved with love. Love isn’t the solution. It’s how we get there.

The world needs our softness, kids.
Let’s do this thing.

312 thoughts on “Why I’m raising soft kids.

  1. itsmedha says:

    A really nice article Jen ,and I am sure if more and more parents think on similar lines the world would definitely be a better place to be in. It is true that fierce competition and disparity everywhere has led to people ,especially youngsters,becoming more and more of harsh on themselves and society in general. As a parent I too feel that we must raise our a little softer but considering the hard times ahead, it would be perhaps more demanding.So I think it would be best for us, as parents, to build in them the conscience to decide for themselves the positives and negatives and groom themselves appropriately.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Zaira Zafar says:

    This is a strong message that every parent needs to teach their children because more often we teach kids to be strong and brave but we forget to mention that being mean doesn’t stand for strong, that making someone else feel small because they called you a name isn’t brave. Brave is to take what others say and reply that hate speech with a message of love and unity. Being strong is hold your ego when you know you can drag a person’s dignity down.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Namita says:

    The people in general are on the edge now a days. We react strongly, we seldom trust and anyone is hardly compassionate enough.The habit of being non- judgmental and more accepting behavior of diverse people and their choices can be inculcated at a young age. Very well written blog. Can’t agree with you more. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Inspired New Horizons says:

    Your post should be mandatory reading for every parent and grandparent. Empathy, compassion, acceptance and understanding are valuable tools for all of us, and especially for children. We must lead by example and be good role models. “Human kind” — so powerful, Jen.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Ms. Chin says:

    Hello Jen, I have just stumbled upon your blog thanks to WP’s Discover, but was immediately captivated. This was a very thought-provoking post, thank you for a great read 🙂 Life is measured by our reactions, well put

    Liked by 2 people

  6. stephenboshoff says:

    Beautiful post! I will nurse, nurture and raise sensitive boys and girls too, it is exactly what the world needs. I am glad to say that I believe we are headed towards a more empathetic world – despite what the news might suggest. All of our wisdom and compassion can bring about World Peace I!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. jobleyy says:

    The world is cruel indeed..we just lost 7 young beautiful ladies in a gruesome road accident in Kisii, Kenya..Who is responsible for all this mess? Should we blame it on drunk driving, corrupt traffic officers or ineffective traffic and rogue driving schools?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. dollygirl90 says:

    I couldn’t love this post any more! I was a soft kid and now a soft adult, I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I have kids someday, I will raise them the same way. You’re awesome and I love your username!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. sirjpblog says:

    Thanks for having a clear view of what parenthood entails and its role to the growth of our societies and humanity. The world is already madden with unnecessary toughness and raising the right set of people is the best option.THANK YOU AGAIN

    Liked by 2 people

  10. pricillalove says:

    The title was enough for a click. Thank you for the positivity. The saying ‘charity begins at home’ is true and I wish more parents followed it. However sometimes its not that the parents didn’t play their role well enough. We need to pray for our kids so they can maintain that softness and refrain from these evil ways.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. An ordinary gal says:

    This is such a lovely post….and I feel such guilt, because I am gripped by fear. As a result I pass that on to my kids.
    – Hide under the bed if an intruder comes.
    – Do you remember where the panic button is?
    – Hide your baby brothers

    Typing this out makes me want to cry…. it’s a harsh time to be living in 😦 I need to get over my own fear before I can show them a different perspective.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. 3amafterglow says:

    Your message is beautiful, and reading the article i resonated.. with the kids ..even if i am a fully grown adult. Me and my brother we were brought up with these values; but unfortunately life crushes good people. Being the light when you are surrounded by darkness feels pretty lonely. I want to encourage you to have kind beautiful kids,but don’t forget to give them the means to defend that soft heart.
    I wish you all the best, beautiful people.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Doug's BoomerRants says:

    I guess you made this post nearly a month ago and more social s*** has hit the fan to further add to your anxiety no doubt. I’m an early senior in life and while that portends to presume I might have a few pearls of wisdom to share, for the most part young folks will just ignore it and do their thing. After all, when I was your age I did that as well. But wisdom or not, I can share this with you. Social despair and anxiety is simply a part of living life. I just posted on my own blog recently my perceptions that “life is not all that bad”.

    The worst social period in my life was the 60’s… during my teen years… and the worst of that was 1968/69. Every major city was experiencing civil rights riots, anti-war riots (Vietnam War, that is), MLK was shot… Bobby Kennedy was shot. Hippies, sex, drugs, and that infernal rock & roll our parents hated (“Those Beatles sure have long hair”, my mother said). Fear of being nuked by the old Soviet Union, commie spies allegedly everywhere. The Democratic National Convention was in Chicago and Mayor Daley’s police goons of the day busted heads in Grant Park and who cares if the cameras were rolling. I lived in Chicago at the time and in an all white area of the city and my mother still feared some sort of rolling retribution. We had an old flagpole on the front lawn and Mother had my sis or myself put up the flag each day before we went to school, in the early 60’s. After 1968 mother said don’t put it up anymore as she didn’t want to draw attention to the house. I of course, in a phase of parental defiance and ideological patriotism, I kept putting it up.

    My point here, yep.. we are all going through some tough times now, but we’ve been through a lot tougher. This is one of those adjusting phases of social equilibrium. It doesn’t mean we should rest on our laurels or not speak out. It just means it will take all of us to regain some balance and move ahead.

    Teach your kids the most important lessons about getting along with others. It’s not about good grades but rather learning to listen and learning to communicate. My little quirk with kids… teach them CORRECT history because in that are the lessons for our future.

    The Cuban Missile Crisis was truly our “end of the world” scenario. It was in the air. We are no where near that. Don’t worry.

    Thus endith the lesson. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Michael Nwaneri says:

    Nice article. It hits it right on the head that we are indeed human. Flawed from conception. Life is indeed a reflection of ” the life” being lived. While fear often seems real is it real? Job’s undoing (Old testament of the Christian Bible) was his fear. That which he feared came upon him. We must teach our children that fear is False Evidence Appearing Real. We must tell ourselves that we expand that which we focus on. We must live our lives to the fullest as if today was our last day. Say I love you today. Learn as if we were going to live forever (are we not living forever).
    In my profession, I see families that come in to the Pediatrician because they are “afraid” something might happen. It is now part of humanity. We teach our children by example. We are afraid of this and that. We are afraid of “tracking” by the government, afraid of the neighborhood “sex offender” or afraid of the trigger-happy “peace officer”.
    Banish fear. Live. Your children will turn out how they will turn out. Look out yourself. Tell us that one person who successfully molded you. No. It was all you. You stopped that habit (or picked up the other one). You married him/her, or dated the other one.
    As parents we may have our desires but eventually the buck stops at the person. Our kids become who they choose to become, soft, hard, strong, weak…..if its to be its up to them.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. The Sweet Life Squared says:

    This post actually made me cry. Because in one post you so eloquently explained every single thing I feel and think but cannot get my arms around enough to say. Our children are this worlds future, raising them soft may very well be giving this world a whole lot more hope.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. elizabelleblog says:

    This post is so wonderful and full of compassion – you are right that we need more compassion and kindness in the world, especially with all the atrocities that are happening around us.
    I believe that kids should be raised to be soft too, it’s just a shame that sometimes softness is often mistaken for weakness when in reality it is a strength that so many of us lack.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Michelle says:

    Love this so very much…well said on so many levels! Kindness is inherently who we all are on the inside, we came that way and are divine in our mere existence!Sadly, so many factors teach us to be unkind in words (mostly via social media arguments 😥) by our actions and ultimately our lives. We ultimately need less “rough edges” and “pointed” conversations & more kind and soft attention to our lives and the lives of those that we come in contact with every day. The ripple effects could bring about great change 😊💕 Beautiful article, I’m so glad I scrolled through my WordPress feed this morning…something I don’t do very often! My kids are “soft” by nature and I’m confident that my 4 grandkids (and counting) will be soft and kind as well…💕 ~Michelle

    Liked by 2 people

    • choosingkind says:

      I’m in!! 🙂 Grateful for the kind words, Rachel. When do you guys return to IC? Love seeing you soak in all of Guam’s beauty before you set off for the next adventure. What an enchanting place. ENJOY these moments!


  18. Doug's BoomerRants says:

    You are a very impassioned mom and no question I think most of your readers (me included) totally understand your frustration. I’ve got to suspect that the grand majority of parents indeed want their kids to grow up better than they were in coping with life.. especially if love is the highway. But that then leads me to the next observation, we already teach our kids love in the hopes they perform exactly how you describe here. Sadly.. just because a person can reproduce doesn’t make them acceptable parents… and there’s no one person qualified to say which parent is “bad”. Hence some kids grow up with, as you say, having observed things perhaps kids should not observe which in turn modifies later behaviors in life.

    But…. if I may… life can be extraordinarily frustrating. But if it were any different it wouldn’t be a life. It’s those damn frustrations that make life worth living; it allows us to appreciate what is good in life. Do people pay with their lives while traveling innocently through life? Yes. Whether you call it divine intervention or the savagery of man it’s all a tragedy. Isn’t it up to us parents to keep focusing our kids on the beauty of life, while at the same time arming them with the skills to understand why things happen, what can be the consequences, and whether or not they can foster change?

    Again, if I may… don’t batter yourself with the frustrating possibilities your kids will find in their world while growing up. You can’t change a thing because, fortunately or unfortunately, we are all human and that’s the guidebook we all have to follow. We as parents are there to steer our kids to hope when they see the bad things of life, either on TV or living life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • choosingkind says:

      Hi Doug — such thoughtful observations. Thanks for connecting 🙂 No doubt, life is messy and frustrating and can feel entirely brutal and unfair some times. A propensity to foster softness in ourselves (and encourage it in our children, as well) doesn’t deny the existence of pain and suffering. It simply suggests a choice in our reaction to it all. You’re absolutely right, life will continue to happen with or without our suffering. We have only our reaction to these ebbs and flows within our control. We can lead with kindness and still be brave and courageous. We can speak on behalf of love and still understand that actions have consequences. We can create change one action at a time even and especially when it feels like the world’s problems are too big and scary for us to make any impact. Because not everything is never better or more helpful than at least something. I could not agree more that our life experiences shape our lens of the world. Based on simply observing people, I’m not as certain that “we already teach our kids love in hopes that they perform as described here”. Imagine if we all genuinely led from a place of understanding and compassion. Imagine if we cared more about our shared humanness than our desire for rightness. I don’t see *softness* as a place separate of all of the aspects of life you’ve described so well here (and HECK YES life’s hardest parts are the very spots that bring us our greatest appreciation for our existence). I see it as another choice. Another option in how we frame these experiences and react to what happens around us, or to us, or within us. I have not yet stumbled on a more direct path to peace than one paved in love and kindness. Thank you again for sharing your thoughts here, Doug. You have my gratitude! 🙂 Cheers, Jen


  19. FutureMDMilitaryWife says:

    I enjoyed reading this. You seem to be a very empathetic person. And I think it’s great to put an emphasis on residing your child to be gentile human beings.

    Liked by 2 people

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